What is a Punch Bowl?

Cathy Rogers
Cathy Rogers
Champagne is a popular punch ingredient.
Champagne is a popular punch ingredient.

Designed for serving punch or other beverages to a crowd, a punch bowl comes in various designs and includes matching punch cups. Punch bowls are wide and are generally made of glass or silver, although some are made of pewter, china, acrylic or stainless steel. The punch bowl may or may not be on a footed base or pedestal. Varying in capacity, most punch bowls holds 4-20 quarts (3.8-19 liters).

Punch bowls are often sold with a matching ladle for serving.
Punch bowls are often sold with a matching ladle for serving.

More expensive punch bowls are made of lead crystal, hand-blown glass or pewter. Some punch bowl sets include a matching ladle, serving tray and a lid. Even less expensive punch bowls usually include the cups and ladle. Some punch bowls include s-shaped hooks that attach the cups to the bowl. Punch bowl cups may or may not have handles. Punch bowls are also used for serving salads or even as an ice bucket.

Based on the Hindi origin of the word punch, the original punch was an Indian version that contained five ingredients: tea, sugar, lemon, water and arrack, a spirit distilled from sugarcane or fruits. British sailors discovered the beverage in India and introduced it to their own and other European countries. In England, the original punch is Wassail-based with a wine or brandy component. Jamaica introduced rum punch.

Punch recipes vary from those containing mixed fruit juices and spices to those containing alcoholic beverages and generally mixed with fruit and or fruit juice. A popular American punch is Planter’s Punch. The recipe for Planter’s Punch combines rum, grenadine syrup, fresh lemon juice and soda water. A champagne punch recipe combines two parts chilled champagne with one part canned fruit juice, such as a cranberry-raspberry or strawberry-kiwi blend, and is topped with fresh fruit. Also served in punch bowls, sangria is a Spanish mixture of red wine, fruit juices, soda water, and liqueurs, garnished with sliced fruit.

Another popular beverage version in the southern U.S. is lime sherbet punch; a sweet, non alcoholic drink that contains lime sherbet, ginger ale and pineapple juice, with cherries, lemon and lime slices for garnish. Punch bowl cake is an informal dessert that is assembled, not baked, in a punch bowl. The basic recipe contains layers of torn pieces of baked angel food cake, fruit, canned pie filling and a combination of whipped and sour cream. Other versions of the dessert contain pudding, pineapple, nuts or coconut.

Discussion Comments


I actually got a great gift when I married: a cake stand that doubles as a punch bowl! Or trifle bowl. Or punch bowl cake.

The secret is in the flared base. Turn it over and it will accept the ball finial on top of the cover part when it is turned upside down. When my sister had a reception after her voice recital, we needed a punch bowl, and I had one on hand! Of course, it's not as huge as a big bowl for a large wedding, but it was just fine to serve punch for about 20 people. We were all glad I had it. I also found the punch recipe. Wish I could remember what I did with that.


Punch bowl cake is nothing more or less than a lifesaver dessert! At Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, I made a pound cake recipe I'd never made before. I mixed it way too much and it came out looking like -- well, it had a tunnel in the middle they could have run a subway train through!

Desperate, I thought of what I could do with the cake, and thought of punch bowl cake! That requires tearing up the cake into bite-size pieces. With twenty minutes, one package of strawberries and one of instant vanilla pudding, I had a beautiful dessert! No one knew what the cake looked like and it tasted great. Like I said -- a lifesaver.

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    • Champagne is a popular punch ingredient.
      By: frisotop
      Champagne is a popular punch ingredient.
    • Punch bowls are often sold with a matching ladle for serving.
      Punch bowls are often sold with a matching ladle for serving.